PCT: Highway 36 to Warner Valley

Miles 1331.1-1350.1 of the northbound PCT: Entering Lassen Volcanic National Park for a taste of hydrothermal features that are rare outside of Yellowstone.

Hiking Moderate

Distance
30 km
Ascent
1 km
Descent
831 m
Duration
7-8 hrs
Low Point
1.5 km
High Point
1.9 km
Gradient
VIEW ON MAP
PCT: Highway 36 to Warner Valley Map

Description

<i>Notice: This segment of the PCT closed due to the Dixie Fire of 2021, with no date for reopening yet announced. Check the PCTA Closures page for updates.</i>

Here the PCT continues through the burn scar of the 2021 Dixie Fire. The wildfire burned in varying intensity across the entirety of this segment, and full the extent of the damage is presently unknown. Even after the trail reopens, hazards are likely to persist. It’s important to consult the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) and other sources for updates before embarking on the trail.

North of Highway 36 (NB mile 1331.1), the PCT rolls through an expanse of burned forest and crosses several dirt roads. Before the fire, water and campsites could be found at Stover Spring (NB mile 1334.8), but their current condition is unknown. The next water is at the North Fork Feather River (NB mile 1340.7), which is a large stream crossed by a footbridge. Safe campsites can likely be found nearby.

North of the river, the trail trends uphill for a few miles, still among burned forest, and later crosses into Lassen Volcanic National Park (NB mile 1346.3). Note that special regulations apply to backcountry camping within the park, including the use of bear canisters (see permits info below).

The first taste of Lassen’s hydrothermal wonders is Terminal Geyser. Despite the name, this “geyser” is not actually an erupting water spout, but a steaming fissure more properly classified as a fumarole. You can see it on a detour of about half a mile down a side trail (NB mile 1347.5). Beyond the Terminal Geyser junction, the PCT continues up and over a low ridge, then down into Warner Valley. On the way down, you’ll catch a view over Boiling Springs Lake (NB mile 1349), which sometimes bubbles with hot water from below.

Near the bottom of the hill, another junction leads on a side trip to Devils Kitchen, a very active hydrothermal area about 2 miles away. Then the PCT crosses Hot Springs Creek on a footbridge (1349.9). This water flows warm from the Devils Kitchen upstream, and is not safe for drinking because of the chemistry. Across the creek, boardwalks and a path through verdant meadows lead the short remainder of the way to Warner Valley trailhead.

This is a remote park of Lassen Volcanic National Park with limited services. However, there is water, a toilet, and a picnic area at the trailhead, plus an NPS campground and ranger station nearby. There is also the Drakesbad Guest Ranch for luxurious lodging by reservation. The road and all of these facilities closed due to the fire, but they reportedly remain intact. Presumably, they will reopen as soon as possible.

Permits: Lassen Volcanic National Park requires permits for backcountry camping, but these are free and self-issued at trailheads and the park boundary. Special regulations apply for camping within the park, including the use of approved bear canisters in the backcountry. See the park’s backcountry regulations for more information.

Sources: https://www.nps.gov/lavo/planyourvisit/wilderness-permit-information.htm https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/maps/ https://pctmap.net/trail-notes/

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

May, June, July, August, September, October, November

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Guidebooks in this area